THE regulatory board that Ohio voters approved last year to create statewide animal care standards needs to show its mettle soon. Recent events, along with building momentum by an animal welfare coalition to make minimum humane standards law, require a response from the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.
An Ohio incident of apparent animal cruelty, captured on video, is attracting national attention from animals rights groups and condemnation by the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and Ohio Veterinary Medical Association. The video appears to show dairy farm workers beating, kicking, and torturing cows and calves on a central Ohio farm.
The harsh images are being shown as state lawmakers consider legislation that would toughen animal-cruelty laws. The case - which resulted in charges against one worker on 12 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty - has raised passions about the treatment of the animals the new state board will create standards to protect.
Ohioans for Humane Farms, an alliance of animal welfare, family farming, food safety, and environmental advocates, is spearheading a ballot initiative for the November election to prevent what it considers some of the cruelest factory farming practices in the state. Those include confinement in tiny cages for months, inhumane methods of euthanasia for sick and injured animals, and allowing sick or injured animals to enter the human food chain.
The 13-member board is traveling the state seeking public input on livestock care rules. The board's chairman, Ohio Agriculture Director Robert Boggs, says the first set of regulations may deal with euthanizing farm animals and prohibiting "downer" animals from entering the food system.
The pressure is on, not for knee-jerk reactions from state regulators, but for sound decisions based on specific criteria that promote acceptable veterinary practices, food safety and affordability, and disease prevention. If a serious, sensible response is not forthcoming soon, voters will need to revisit the issue.